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Dairy Industry Impacts Mississippi's Economy
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Although June is officially dairy month, the dairy industry is an important part of Mississippi's economy all year long. Mississippi's dairy industry generated an estimated $320 million in economic activity last year.
Dr. Reuben Moore, extension dairy specialist, at Mississippi State University, said total milk production in the state last year was 83 million gallons.
Recent data indicate there are 10 firms engaged in the processing of milk and milk products in Mississippi, employing 893 people at an annual payroll of $18.9 million.
"In addition, 36 firms are engaged in wholesaling or retailing milk products," Moore said. "These have an additional 212 employees with a payroll of $3.8 million."
For 1996, there are 490 Grade A dairy farms in Mississippi, down sharply from the 555 farms at this time last year.
"Mississippi's dairy producers are having a tough time this year. The high price of corn is really driving up feed costs," Moore said. "Feed makes up about 50 percent of a dairyman's cost of production."
Last year, each dairy cow consumed about 17 pounds of grain and concentrate every day. Corn also makes up a big part of the concentrate the cows eat.
Adding to dairy producers troubles are beef prices, which are low and expected to stay that way.
"You might not consider low beef cattle prices a problem for dairy farmers, but it is," Moore said. "Growers are getting low prices for cull cows -- cows pulled from the dairy herd and sold for beef."
One bright spot for the industry is that the price of milk has been climbing. Moore said Mississippi dairy farmers received $1.08 for each gallon of milk produced last year, for an average price of $12.55 per hundredweight.
"Last year in Mississippi, there were 55,000 dairy cows," Moore said. "Each dairy cow in the state produced an average of 12,909 pounds, or more than 6,000 quarts, of milk last year."
Seventy-three percent of the milk produced in Mississippi last year was used in fluid milk products.
In 1995, an average dairy cow cost $1,100. In order to pay for that cow, a farmer would have to sell 1,019 gallons of milk, Moore said.